2009-12-09 / Political Page

Peralta: Monserrate Should Have Gotten Jail Time

Two events which occurred last week will have a major impact on next year’s state legislative elections. The sentencing of state Senator Hiram Monserrate on misdemeanor charges. He got no jail time, but the sentence elicited an immediate call from Assemblymember Jose Peralta Monserrate to resign his senate seat. “Violence against women is unacceptable, declared Peralta (D–Corona), who has already announced that plans to challenge Monserrate (D–Jackson Heights) if he runs for re-election. Peralta said Monserrate should have been given jail time for his “heinous assault” against his girlfriend last year.

Monserrate’s case, involving his girlfriend Karla Giraldo, was a key issue for Peralta before the sentencing and will still be a major issue for him because of the no jail sentence Monserrate received.

The other event that occurred last week and which has major political significance for next year’s elections was the defeat of the gay rights marriage bill by the state senate. Eight Democrats joined all 30 Republicans in voting “no” against the controversial bill, leading to its defeat by a 38-24 vote.

Now completing his 10th year in the Assembly, covering a district that includes Corona, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights—all of which is in the 13th senate district—Peralta, above, is dead set on bringing the challenge to Monserrate, at left. He has the Queens Democratic Party and its chairman, Congressmember Joseph Crowley in his corner; both Crowley and the county organization have endorsed him. Now completing his 10th year in the Assembly, covering a district that includes Corona, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights—all of which is in the 13th senate district—Peralta, above, is dead set on bringing the challenge to Monserrate, at left. He has the Queens Democratic Party and its chairman, Congressmember Joseph Crowley in his corner; both Crowley and the county organization have endorsed him. Monserrate was among the Democrats voting “no” on the bill. Peralta voted for the bill when the Assembly passed it, so this will be another key issue in a possible Peralta–Monserrate campaign for the 13th senate district seat covering Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Corona and East Elmhurst.

We say “possible race” because Monserrate is still threatened with being thrown out of the senate because of the Giraldo affair. A special senate committee is studying the case to determine whether Monserrate will be dumped because of his misdemeanor conviction.

It’s possible the sentence Monserrate received last week—three years’ probation, $1,000 fine and 250 hours of community service, including 52 weeks of domestic violence therapy—might satisfy his senate colleagues as adequate punishment; or it might not.

As far as Peralta was concerned, he said in calling for Monserrate to resign his seat that, while his sentence will be occupying much of his time, “We deserve a senator entirely focused on the serious challenges facing our community.”

Meanwhile, Monserrate announced he was going to appeal the sentence, and there's no indication he will resign at this time.

As for Monserrate’s and Peralta’s diametrically opposite positions on the gay marriage issue, it’s unavoidable that they will clash on this issue, should they run against each other.

Peralta stated he has worked hard to advance the cause of marriage equality, which he sees as “a stand for equal rights”. His position has nothing to do with religion, he said.

Peralta added, “More and more New Yorkers are coming to see this issue as I do—as an issue of civil rights, an issue of fairness and equality.”

Now completing his 10th year in the Assembly, covering a district that includes Corona, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights—all of which is in the 13th senate district—Peralta is dead set on bringing the challenge to Monserrate. He has the Queens Democratic Party and its chairman, Congressmember Joseph Crowley in his corner; both Crowley and the county organization have endorsed him. Peralta, it appears, will have at least one advocacy group in his corner in any battle with

Monserrate, the National Organization for Women/NYS. NOW blasted sentencing Judge William Erlbaum as lacking “the fortitude to put Monserrate away for a year”.

The organization, a strong advocate for victims of domestic violence, also urged the senate to force out Monserrate, so they’ll be gunning for him if he runs for re-election.

Getting back to the political fallout of the state senate’s rejection of the gay marriage bill, gays are furious over its defeat, especially with the lack of support for the legislation by Democratic senators.

Gays and gay advocates poured a reported $1 million into Democratic campaigns last year and their efforts gave the Dems control of the senate for the first time in 40 years.

Reports out of Albany say gay advocates won’t be shifting their attack to Republicans in the senate, all 30 of whom voted against the bill. They are focusing their attack on the Democrats who also voted against the bill—Joseph Addabbo Jr. (Howard Beach), Shirley Huntley (Jamaica), Monserrate (Jackson Heights) and George Onorato (Astoria). The only other “no” vote from Queens was cast by Republican Senator Frank Padavan (Bellerose) and it’s quite possible they would support a candidate against him.

But the gays’ focus will be on the Democratic primaries, where they would support candidates against Addabbo, Huntley, Onorato and Monserrate.

The only Queens Democrats who voted for the bill were Senators Malcolm Smith (Jamaica) and Toby Ann Stavisky (Flushing).

The question is where will gays and gay advocates find realistic opponents to take on Addabbo, Huntley, Onorato and Monserrate?

Against Monserrate, of course, they can put their money on Peralta. But Addabbo and Onorato come from conservative districts and they usually would not be getting a primary challenge because of their strong backing from regular Democrats and the county Democratic organization. There may be little chance the gays will find candidates in Queens whose campaigns they can realistically support.

VALLONE’S BILL STIRS WEINER’S

COUNCIL MEMORIES: A few weeks ago, the City Council passed a bill requiring the gradual phasing out of cumbersome, heavy roll-down metal gates and their replacement by more attractive and safer lattice gates.

Vallone had long campaigned for the newstyle gates because the roll downs were too often used as canvases by graffiti vandals turning the city’s business districts into areas that looked neglected and abandoned.

Stories of the bill’s passage caught the attention of former councilmember, now Congressmember Anthony Weiner (D–Queens/Brooklyn). In 1996, Weiner introduced a bill to do away with “graffiti gates”, the cumbersome metal roll down gates that fronted most of the city’s business establishments. Weiner’s bill called for all new gates to provide at least 50 percent visibility into a store, which is similar to a provision in Vallone’s bill. Besides improving the look of a business district, the glass frontages are safer for firefighters or police who may have to enter a store to respond to burglar or fire alarms.

Weiner recalls a council committee held hearings on his roll down bill in June of 1997, but there the trail ended as Weiner left the council in December 1997 to take a seat in Congress the following year.

Weiner ended his short walk down memory lane saying: “Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. deserves credit for ushering this legislation through the council. It is good news for our neighborhood shopping strips and the many people who like to visit them.”

REPORT LIU READY TO MAKE PENSION FUND SAVINGS: According to a press report, soon-to-be installed city Comptroller John Liu has been doing some preliminary checking on the investment expenses of the $85 billion in the five pension funds that will soon be his job to administer. He found those expenses were $102 million in 2002, but had increased to $310 million last year.

Liu, presently ending his eighth year as a councilmember, thought this was a sharp increase, even though he had only done “a very cursory” review. But, “It suggests investment management expenses can be trimmed,” he said.

Meanwhile, Liu’s transition team headed by former state Comptroller Carl McCall, is conducting a nationwide search for a city chief investment officer, as well as deputy comptrollers for audit, budget, contracts, public finance and legal affairs so that he’ll be ready to take over from incumbent Comptroller William Thompson Jr. on January 1.

MALONEY LIKES JOBS REPORT: Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, chair of the Joint Economic Committee, found some signs of optimism in the November job report issued by the Department of Labor. It showed, she said, that employment was essentially unchanged and the unemployment rate had edged down to 10 percent.

“After two years of unrelenting bad economic news, this morning’s employment report marks the first time since the recession began that the labor market has stabilized.” Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) added that this indicates that measures applied by President Barack Obama and Congress are clearly working.

“There is still more work to do,” Maloney said. Congress is examining a number of proposals, including putting unemployed Americans to work rebuilding the nation's crumbling infrastructure, as well as targeting tax credits for creating jobs.

STILL TIME FOR OUTSTANDING SANIT TIX RELIEF: There’s still time for homeowners with outstanding tickets for dirty sidewalks, illegal posting of handbills, and other Environmental Control Board violations to participate in the city’s penalty relief program, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D–Astoria) said in a recent advisory.

Under the program, he said, businesses and homeowners with outstanding quality of life violations can qualify to have penalties, late fees and interest waived.

The program expires December 21. To apply for the relief, call 311, visit the Department of Finance Web site www.nyc.gov/finance, or call Vallone’s office at 718-274-4500 for more information.

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